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Port Everglades Cancels Signing Of Pact With Cuba After Gov. Scott Threatens To Cut Funding

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A Cuban trade delegation visited Port Everglades in Broward County on Thursday - and the port and the Cubans were supposed to sign an agreement. But Florida’s governor made sure that didn’t happen.

The Cuban delegation is on a tour of U.S. ports this week.  But its visit to Port Everglades was special: A memorandum of understanding was going to be signed for future cooperation between Port Everglades and Cuban ports like Mariel, which recently got a billion-dollar facelift.

But Florida Governor Rick Scott threatened to pull state funding for Port Everglades if it went ahead with the MOU. Florida ports, he said, should not ink deals with Cuba’s repressive communist regime.

“Our ports are very important to me," Scott said Wednesday. "But what I don’t believe in is our ports doing business with a ruthless dictator.. I think it’s not good for this state.”

Scott’s pressure worked. On Thursday morning, Port Everglades said it and Cuba will not sign an MOU. The Port of Palm Beach also called off signing the MOU. 

But U.S.-Cuba trade experts question Scott’s move. After all, they say, U.S. ports can still send Cuba legally authorized products. Cuba can still send U.S. ports privately produced goods like the charcoal Port Everglades received earlier this week – the first Cuban export to the U.S. in half a century.

"It's a political game, it's rhetorical," says Emilio Morales, president of the Havana Consulting Group in Miami. "How many products does Cuba export to the United States right now? Nothing. So, it’s symbolic. There are a lot more important U.S.-Cuba issues to deal with right now.”

Port Everglades authorities still met with the Cuban delegation on Thursday afternoon - and Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness says the port will continue to engage Cuba.

“It is sad that the Governor chose to put the kind of politics pressure on us as he has," says Holness. "Now is time for us to move forward. Fidel Castro is dead. Let’s bury the past with him.”

The Port of Palm Beach also scrapped an MOU with Cuba due to Scott's threat.